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Finding myself and my soulmate on Contiki’s Grand Southern

Couple who met on Contiki travelling together

I’ve always had a lust for travel, previously adventuring through Europe and Asia, and for my 18th birthday my parents bought me a return plane ticket to America as they knew I had always wanted to visit. Recently single and out of a 5 year on again off again relationship with my ex, this was the perfect opportunity to set off to the States and travel solo for 6 weeks.

My previous relationship taught me that I couldn’t rely on anyone, and it took me a year of healing to find out that that wasn’t true. In that year I allowed myself to trust and believe in myself again, I moved out of home and was learning how to be alone, I was starting to discover who I am as a person. I booked my Contiki as a continuation of that journey, and so that I could meet some people who may be travelling alone as well. 

Back to basics

I chose Contiki’s Grand Southern trip as it had multiple places I wanted to visit and some places I never even thought about such as New Orleans, Miami and Memphis (which happened to be the most amazing city!). Contiki made the choice very easy: travel was organised, hotels were sorted, all I had to do was get the courage to hop on a plane by myself and meet some new people. 

But I needed a little push, and with only partial, but steadily-growing, courage in my back pocket, I convinced my friend to come along on the first week with me to travel to San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Finding friends and comfort

After a week in San Francisco and Los Angeles with my friend, I found my way onto the Contiki bus, and boarded alone, heading for Las Vegas. Our Trip Manager organised some icebreaker activities so we could get to know one another before travelling together for the next 27 days. The first one was a game of 2-minute speed dating and speaking to everyone on the bus. I was still building up my self-confidence after it had been shattered, so I initially found this game quite intimidating and strange. But I listened to that inner voice that was telling me I would find myself on this trip and that I could do this. 

This is where Karl (my future partner) and I had our first conversation. He can’t remember what he said, and I can’t either, but I do remember talking about Melbourne. In the first few days I began to establish some relationships with the other people on my trip as well, particularly a girl named Emma who coincidently knew some of the same people I knew back home. It was comforting that there were other people on this coach from my hometown.

After we left Las Vegas the Contiki group and I made our way to the Grand Canyon. The first night in the Grand Canyon everyone on the trip decided to get together and bring chairs out into the parking lot to gather around and play games and talk. This is where I found myself again sitting next to Karl. Never in my wildest mind did I realise that this night would lead me to finding my soulmate. The remainder of the trip we spent every day together, and I learned that travelling solo and travelling via coach really allows you to deeply connect with one another. 

Contiki travellers together in Texas

Image source:Monique Lopes

The rewards

Contiki provided me with the opportunity to connect with others and myself. I was alone travelling in a foreign country, learning how to navigate new relationships as well as new places to go and see. These experiences forced me to get outside my comfort zone, make independent decisions and embrace the unfamiliar. 

5 years later I find myself in the healthiest relationship I have ever been in with Karl. We bought a house together and have a 4-year-old dog; Luna who is our fur child. We’ve travelled to Japan, Bali, around Australia, and are now organising our trip to Europe in the Winter. This love of adventure and travel is one that brought us together and continues to be a big part of our relationship.

Sometimes I find myself reflecting back on my Grand Southern trip and realising that if I hadn’t found that self-confidence to go I would have never found this amazing person. I have continued to stay in touch with Emma as well, we see eachother from time to time and stay in constant contact with each other. In many ways, I feel like Emma was a part of helping Karl and I develop a relationship. She was not only my roommate but our constant cheerleader, suggesting we go to restaurants and do activities with one another. 

Life is all about adventure, however finding that confidence to take the first step is hard,  but know that it’s all worth it. You may not find that person, but you will definitely find yourself. 

Couple who met on Contiki still together years later

Image source:Monique Lopes

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